What is urbanization?

We explain what urbanization is and what are the causes of global urbanization. In addition, its advantages and disadvantages.

  1. What is urbanization?

Urbanization is the process of concentration of the population of a nation and its main economic activities in a city context, rather than a rural one.

This process began gradually in the world from the entry of the Modern Age and the consolidation of its new industrial values ​​(the Industrial Revolution) , and is currently the prevailing way of life in industrialized countries and even in those in which process of development.

Since the mid-twentieth century, more people live in urban contexts in the world ( 54% of the world’s population ) than in rural locations, and even future projections point to only one third of the world’s population in rural settings by 2040. This represents a significant change from the global trend of past centuries, which favored rural life.

It is estimated that this boom in urban life has reached its peak in the last six decades, going hand in hand with globalization and the technological revolution, which is openly committed to an urban future. This has an undeniable impact on our values, our way of life and the footprint we leave as we pass through the planet.

There is also the phenomenon of counter-urbanization or ruralization , which occurs when there is an exodus from the cities to the rural area, but occurs only in very specific historical conditions.

  1. Types of urbanization

From an ecological point of view, we distinguish between two modes of urbanization: sustainable and non-sustainable . The first points to urban life processes that cohabit with the natural environment and the ecosystem , trying to do as little damage as possible. The second, however, does not take these concerns into account, so it has a noticeable environmental impact .

Other distinctions when talking about urbanization can be:

  • Rurbanization . It occurs when the city influences the surrounding rural areas, but since its costs are so high, many of the economic and experiential activities that normally occur inside it begin to be located on rural land, such as urban islands in rural areas.
  • Periurbanization . It is about the appearance of spaces within the city that do not fulfill traditional purposes of commerce , habitability or industry, but that provide a kind of “intermediate space” to the city, such as parks, transit facilities, highways, etc.
  • Suburbanization . Also called urbanization by spillage, it consists in the propagation of the city towards rural territories due to the excess of housing concentration in the city, so that new distant low-density neighborhoods are founded, connected to the urban core by fast roads.
  1. Causes of urbanization

Global urbanization responds to various causes, such as:

  • The population increase in recent centuries, which expands cities and generates new demand for housing.
  • Mass industrialization, which replaced rural jobs with machinery and opened new urban opportunities in bureaucratic administration, commerce and mass manufacturing, better paid and less effort.
  • Greater urban diversity, in the face of increasingly complex cities that involve greater prospects for entertainment.
  • Higher incidence of basic services, and therefore a more modern standard of living.
  • Expansion of post-industrial culture thanks to globalization.

Urbanization has positive and negative consequences, which we will see separately:

  1. Advantages of urbanization

Cities are areas more controllable by states.
  • Sustained growth . The growth of cities is accompanied by a greater demand for basic services and consumer goods , which generates a larger market to satisfy.
  • Population concentration . Cities are areas that are more controllable by states and with greater ease of coverage of service or distribution networks, given that the population is concentrated in a few kilometers around.
  • Job complexity . The employment market in the city is much more diverse and varied than in rural areas, thus allowing the development and complexity of industrial, commercial and service activities.
  1. Disadvantages of urbanization

  • Empowerment of agriculture . The general preference for the urban life model tends to be at the expense of rural life, which is impoverished and abandoned in many cases, since the industry can supply its activities in some cases (as in importing countries).
  • Greater urban poverty . The migration from rural areas to cities affects their quality of life , since many times the supposed opportunities are scarce and rural migration increases the marginal belts of large cities.
  • Environmental impact . By concentrating the population in a few kilometers, the impact on the quality of air , water and landis maximized, which in turn affects the health of the population and the ecosystem.
  • Maximization of consumption . The demand for electricity and fuels is much higher in cities, which affects the world markets for raw materials and the adverse effects of the available power generation methods.

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